When the NBA’s free agent negotiation period began at 3 p.m. PST on Sunday, June 30, it was believed that Kawhi Leonard was seriously considering signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, while also considering the Los Angeles Clippers and Toronto Raptors.
He reportedly met with the Lakers shortly thereafter, but as the workweek progressed, Leonard hadn’t made a decision, and his camp was silent.
Ultimately, Leonard decided to join the Clippers late on July 5, and now the Lakers are crying foul.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Purple and Gold feel like “they got played” by the two-time NBA world champion and Finals MVP.
“I’ve heard complaints in the days after the signing. I heard complaints from the Lakers that they got played. I heard complaints from the Raptors that Kawhi came in and asked for the sun, the moon, the stars then left them at the altar.”
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne also reported that just a few hours before Leonard made his decision, he asked the Lakers to delay executing the Anthony Davis trade so that they could hold onto their cap space, which they needed to sign the former Raptor.
The theory that some fans seem to believe is that perhaps Leonard delayed making his official decision so that the Lakers would be forced to fill out their roster with second-rate role players, rather than higher quality ones who had already committed to other teams.
However, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard was determined from the beginning to team up with fellow All-Star Paul George, and he was simply waiting for one of his suitors to acquire the former Oklahoma City Thunder forward.
In fact, the Raptors did reportedly try to acquire George, but the Thunder felt the Clippers had a more attractive trade package.